Tricia Sutter [b. 1963] was born in Carteret, New Jersey, grew up in Barnegat, New Jersey, and spent the majority of her adolescence in Owensboro, Kentucky.
In 1985, after attending Western Kentucky University for a year, Sutter realized that she wanted to pursue a meaningful profession and decided to join the United States Coast Guard. She completed her basic training at the United States Coast Guard Training Center Cape May, in New Jersey, and because of her background in aquatics, she was eventually asked to stay and work in the fitness center as an instructor.
Sutter attended water safety instructor training in the Pocono Mountains, and upon returning to the fitness center she was responsible for the physical conditioning of the new recruits, training non-swimmers, and being a lifeguard for the pool.
After three years working in the fitness center, Sutter left to become a crewman on a small boat crew at Station Cape May. In this new role, Sutter assisted with lifesaving calls to help boats in distress, performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation [CPR] when necessary, helped keep track of boats in the event of an emergency, and conducted searches of boats suspected of smuggling drugs.
In 1989, after four years of service, Sutter left the U.S. Coast Guard.